United Church of Christ churches in Chicago have joined together to eliminate over $5.3 million in medical debt impacting nearly 6,000 Illinois families. Meanwhile, the UCC national church body has dedicated this year’s Giving Tuesday to the cause of erasing medical debt nationwide.
Local church leaders affiliated with the 5,000-church mainline Protestant denomination announced Sunday that they had raised over $38,000 that was used to purchase medical debt plaguing 5,888 families.
As medical debt is the most common cause of bankruptcy in the United States, the New York-based nonprofit RIP Medical Debt works with organizations and donors to purchase unpaid debt from medical institutions incurred by struggling families for just pennies on the dollar.
Instead of that debt being sold off to third-party collection companies looking to make a profit, the debt is purchased by RIP Medical Debt and the individual or family is freed from the financial burden with no strings attached.
Speaking at a news conference Sunday afternoon at Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street, the church’s pastor, Otis Moss, told churchgoers that the nearly 6,000 families will receive an anonymous letter before Thanksgiving informing them that their debt has been forgiven.
“RIP Medical Debt was able to work with us so that we were able to target certain zip codes to ensure that that poorest of the poor would benefit from this,” Moss explained. “I am happy to say that communities in Chicago that received the largest portion of debt relief [are] Englewood, Auburn Gresham, Washington Heights, Roslyn, and West Pullman.”
“But people throughout Cook County will have their debt relieved,” Moss continued. “They will receive a very special card before Thanksgiving that is completely anonymous. They don’t know that this is coming. The card will simply say: ‘Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. We want you to know that all your debts have been forgiven.’”
The major contributions for the campaign came from Trinity United Church of Christ, St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Lincoln Park, Covenant United Church of Christ in South Holland, and the Leadership Network, a consortium of local Baptist churches serving Chicago’s black neighborhoods.
“The sisters and brothers who stand behind me joined in with this movement,” Moss said during the news conference.